The impressive whale masks of the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples are grandconstructions in which the mouth, fins, and tail of a sea mammal are madeto move in imitation of a whale swimming. The tail goes up and down, thelateral flippers move in and out, and the great mouth opens. The dorsal finalso moves slightly. The entire mechanism is rigged in such a way that theperformer, while carrying the mask on back and shoulders, can manipulate itwith his hands much like a puppet and mimic the gestures of a swimmingwhale. When actively performing, a costume of shredded bark hangs fromthe mask, hiding the body of the wearer. This example is an unusual typecalled a transformation mask, in which one creature opens to reveal another.In the whale’s mouth is a large, hook-nosed face, which may be that of theancestor who interacted with a whale in the mythic past, thereby making thewhale the emblem of the family lineage.